Family films to see at the cinema this week
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family!
Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 3D (12A)
The Jurassic World theme park abandoned and decayed after events in the previous movie, the surviving dinosaurs are now facing an extinction level event with the volcano on Isla Nubar threatening to blow its top. Advised by dino expert Ian Malcom (an unusually subdued Jeff Goldblum) to let nature takes its course, the American government declines to spend money on saving them. Which is when the park’s former manager turned pro-dino activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) gets summoned to the palatial Lockwood estate where Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), the right hand man to Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), John Hammond’s former partner and co-creator of the original genetically cloned dinos (though this is actually the first film the character’s ever mentioned), who explains they intend to rescue 11 of the species and relocate them to a new sanctuary, but they need her help and that of her now ex-lover, raptor-wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), because of his special bond with Blue, the intelligent raptor he reared and trained. So, accompanied by dino vet Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and nerdy T.Rex phobic systems analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), off they go.
However, as the opening sequence involving a mercenary team recovering a DNA sample from the now dead hybrid dino Indominus rex has already indicated, there’s another nefarious agenda in play. Yup, unbeknown to Lockwood, Mills is planning to stage a lucrative auction of the rescued species for others to clone, the main attraction being a re-engineered and weaponised Indoraptor that can even open doors. Though not, apparently, put its head through a wooden panel. Left to die by the mercenaries’ leader, managing to escape the erupting volcano in one of the rolling glass spheres, Claire and Owen, and to a lesser extent Webb and Rodriguez, with, of course, a timely assist from Blue, now have to try and put a stop to this. All of which, after long stretches with no dinosaur action at all, the creatures mostly locked in cages and tranquillised, climaxes with assorted giant lizards running amok around the mansion, bodies being duly thrown through the air, stomped on or eaten. Introduced into the mix is also Lockwood’s dinosaur-loving young granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), a startling reveal about whom is simply tossed away.
Directed by J.A. Bayona, what with volcanic eruptions, stampeding dinosaurs, a reworking of the first film’s hunter-prey stalking kitchen scene, this time amid a hall of Jurassic tableaux, it visually delivers the goods, the murky prologue even offering a James homage to Spielberg. It might not offer much that’s new, but given its vastly entertaining popcorn, the series’ extinction at the box office is likely to be some way off yet. 128 mins. Also in 2D and IMAX 3D.
LGWTC Guidance: With a sense of been there, seen that, it doesn’t have the sheer magic of Spielberg’s original, but, as a sort of Rampage in a big house with dinosaurs, this is still big beasts fun.
Avengers: Infinity War 3D (12A)
The movie equivalent of going to an all you can eat buffet and still wanting more, this brings together pretty much every major superhero in Disney’s Marvel Universe for the ultimate mashup as they take on the towering world destroyer Thanos (a surprisingly soulful Josh Brolin) who is out to gather all six of the infinity stones so that he can bring balance to the universe by wiping out half of its inhabitants, so that the remaining half have a chance to survive. It’s galaxy-wide genocide, but he means well.
Given the showdowns between Thanos and the various team ups take place in various parts of the planet and the universe, the massive cast of characters don’t actually all occupy the same scene at any one time. Rather we have different pockets of resistance. After an initial confrontation in New York, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) are paired up on Thanos’s flying wheel and his home planet Titan; Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) face off in Wakanda with the Black Panther (Chadwick Bosemen), ultimately joined by Wanda (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany).
After rescuing him from space, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), stick-teen Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) join forces with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who heads off with the ‘rabbit’ and Groot to forge a new hammer, while the others head for Knowhere, home of the Collector (Benicio Del Toro).
The three hours of cataclysmic jaw dropping, eye-popping action comes liberally laced with intense emotional beats, pop culture references and the sort of dry and droll humour you’ve come to expect, here primarily in the alpha male stand-offs between egotistical Stark and supercilious Strange, the testosterone tag match between Thor and an intimidated Peter Quinn and the former’s ever hilarious unintended casual put downs. Indeed, Hemsworth pretty much owns every scene he’s in.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo orchestrate everything with dazzling skill and confidence, never for a moment letting the pace sag, but knowing when to ease back on the mayhem and introduce tragic notes. Keep an eye out for the avengers reassembling in a year’s time for the eagerly anticipated sequel. 150 mins also in 2D and IMAX 3D
LGWTC Guidance: To Infinity…. And beyond!
Solo: A Star Wars Story 3D (12A)
The second Stars Wars prequel spin-off following Rogue One, this Han Solo origin story is a dramatically lighter affair more along the lines of the Young Indiana Jones than its predecessor’s drama.
We first meet Han (Alden Ehrenreich), not yet named Solo, as, having stolen a vial of valuable spaceship fuel coaxium, he and fellow thief romantic interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) seek to escape the oppression of Corellia to follow his dream of becoming a pilot. He makes it past the gate, she doesn’t. To avoid capture, he impulsively enlists with the Empire, earning his surname in the process, vowing to return for her when he has his own ship.
Some years later, he’s a footsoldier caught up in one of the Empire’s planet conquering wars when he encounters Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his fellow smugglers, Val (Thandie Newton) and chimp-like multiple-armed pilot Rio Durant (Jon Favreau) with whom, after a mud pit interlude where he teams up with imprisoned Wookiee, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), he joins forces in a plan to steal coaxium from a transport train. This too doesn’t quite work out, leaving them in debt to ruthless gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), who fronts the sinister Crimson Dawn, and facing the likely fatal consequences of failing. However, they talk him into giving them another opportunity, this time to steal coaxium directly from the mines and processing it before it has the chance to explode. For this, however, they need a ship. So, enter hustler Lando Calrissian (Duncan Glover) who, of course, owns the Millennium Falcon and, along with his droid, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), agrees to come aboard for a cut of the payout. Along the way, Han finds himself unexpectedly reunited with Q’ira who now works for Dryden. There’s also the slight problem that there’s another gang of thieves, headed up by Beckett’s arch-enemy, who also want the coaxium.
So, there you have it, surname, ship, Chewie, blaster, jacket, all the trademark details ticked off as the narrative finally kicks in leading to assorted fights, narrow escapes, double crosses, a betrayals and surprise twists, including the appearance of a villain from the franchise.
Although the early chase sequences are thrilling, the film’s slow to gather momentum until the gang set off to steal the raw coaxium, involving a tense escape aboard the Falcon through the Maw and Maelstrom as Solo gets to show off his flying skills and L3 gets to liberate her fellow droids from slavery, but even so, the who can you really trust plotting gets a bit repetitive. There’s no Force or lightsabres but replacement director Ron Howard and screenwriters Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan ensure the Star Wars sensibilities remain well polished, dropping in plenty of franchise references. And it rarely looks less than amazing.
Ehrenreich is great fun channelling the young Han with his roguish smile, gait, recklessness and charm, so it’s a bit unfortunate that he looks as though he’s more likely to grow up into Dennis Quaid than Harrison Ford. It’s also unfortunate that the chemistry between him and Clarke never fizzles, indeed there’s more spark between Lando and L3. Everyone else is serviceable enough and, at the end of the day, it serves up an enjoyable slice of big screen adventure in the tradition of those Saturday morning matinees that inspired Star Wars in the first place, although its failure to set the box office alight suggests further Han and Chewie adventures are unlikely. 135 mins. Also in 2D and IMAX 3.
LGTWC Guidance: Played for fun, this is pure popcorn adventure for Han fans, but it lacks the Star Wars sense of drama.
The Little Vampire (U)
Previously adapted as a live action feature starring Richard E. Grant, Jonathan Lipnicki and Rollo Weeks, here Angela Sommer-Bodenburg’s children’s book gets the animation treatment. The set-up’s different, but the story’s pretty much the same. Having been thirteen for three thousand years, Rudolph (Rasmer Haricker), the youngest of the aristocratic Sackville-Bagg vampire clan, wants to explore the world outside their crypts and coffins, something forbidden by his imperious father (Tim Piggott-Smith) because of the dangers it can present to the family. Such fears are quickly brought home when, secretly sneaking after his equally rebellious brother, he ends up having to save him from ruthless vampire hunter Rookery (Jim Carter reprising his role from the original film) and his new super-light weapon. Unfortunately, Rookery and Maney, his bumbling inventor assistant, are now able to track them to the family’s lair in an attempt to seal them away forever.
However, in fleeing from Rooker, Rudolph chances upon twelve-year-old Tony (Amy Saville), a young American vacationing in Transylvania with his mum and dad and who has a fascination for vampires. Offering to help Rudolph on condition there’s no neck-biting, the two become friends and, subsequently joined by the former’s sister, Anna (Phoebe Givron-Taylor), set out to stop Rookery from carrying out his dastardly plans.
The animation’s pretty basic and the plotting overly repetitive as its goes from one Rookery scheme to the next and it rather indulges young children’s amusement at poo jokes by having one character being covered in dung from a vampire cow. That said, it flags up a useful message about tolerance and understanding and has enough child-friendly humour and slapstick to keep them entertained while the grown ups can appreciate Anna’s borrowing of Lauren Bacall’s classic line about whistling from To Have and Have Not. 82 mins. Vue cinemas only.
LGWTC guidance: Padded out and repetitive, it lacks the charm and wit of the original, but there’s enough thrills to keep undemanding youngsters happy.
The Breadwinner (12A)
Nominated for the Oscars, this is an animated adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ children’s book, based on interviews with Afghan refugees in Pakistan, about Parvana (Saara Chaudry) an 11-year-old Afghan girl in 2001 Taliban-occupied Kabul who, when her disabled former teacher father, Nurullah (Ali Badshah), is arrested (by a former pupil) and hauled off to prison, takes it upon herself to keep the family, her mother, sister and baby brother fed.
However, given the Taliban forbid women to venture outside without male company and the fact that shopkeepers are too scared to sell to her for fear of retribution, in order to do so – and ultimately go in search of her father – she has to disguise herself as a boy, because, as the street smart Shauzia (Soma Chhaya), who’s also passing as a boy, points out, boys can go anywhere.
So, she cuts her hair and wears her deceased older brother’s clothes and ventures out into the city markets, earning money by selling what few goods the family has left and reading letters of her illiterate customers.
Among the items for sale is an ornate tunic which, at the start of the film, her father employs to spin a story about Afghanistan’s history, that develops further in the fables Parvana tells her baby brother and her tales of a young boy’s courage in confronting and overcoming the terrifying Elephant King.
With careful attention to cultural accuracy, it balances its hard-hitting political content with deep emotion as it recounts background stories alongside that of Paravana and her family, building to a powerful dramatic finale against a backdrop of renewed conflict, pitting the power of love and friendship against the power of hate and division. 93 mins.
LGWTC Guidance: Not for the younger audiences perhaps, but a good film for parents who want their children to understand the world isn’t a Disney fairytale.
Sherlock Gnomes (U)
Gnomeo & Juliet was a funny, inventive and rather charming rework of Romeo and Juliet, but with garden gnomes and a happy ending. The sequel, which teams the now married lovers with a gnome version of Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth, is none of the above. Settling into their new London home, Juliet (Emily Blunt) is too busy working how to get the garden right to give much time to Gnomeo (James McAvoy), who duly has a major sulk and tries to win her attention back. Meanwhile, someone is stealing all of London’s gnomes, to which end master detective Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and his assistant Dr. Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are on the trail, the former cruelly dismissive of the latter. When their fellow gnomes also get snatched, Gnomeo and Juliet find themselves joining forces with the detectives in a game of wits played out between Holmes and his arch nemesis, Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou), a garish yellow pie mascot in a purple nappy and bow-tie, with just 24 hours before they’re smashed to pieces.
Elton John is the executive producer and don’t you just know it, with an Elton lookalike gnome, either snatches of his songs or in-jokes references to them, Moriaty even looks a bit like him. It’s well-animated with lots of detail, but that attention doesn’t extend to the overly busy but meandering plot (though it does have a clever twist) or the bland characters. The film’s idea of wit is a gnome in a pink mankini flashing his buttocks, something apparently is so hilarious it keeps returning to him. It also contrives to have a doll museum sequence as an excuse to wheel out Mary J Blige to perform a number as a character called Irene. “Some say it’s a job for Sherlock Gnomes!” says a TV reporter. Before adding, “Others say it’s a slow news day!” Guess who’s right. 86 mins.
LGWTC Guidance: Gnome more please!
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.